Piscataquis Ice Arena in a 2020 photo Credit: Courtesy of Matt Spooner

A mass vaccination site at the Piscataquis County Ice Arena in Dover-Foxcroft is set to open on March 19, Northern Light Health, the hospital network that will run the site, said Wednesday.

About 1,500 people a week are eventually expected to be vaccinated at the clinic, said Dr. James Jarvis, who leads Northern Light’s COVID-19 response. Work to convert the site to a vaccination clinic, including the removal of the ice surface, has begun, he said.

The site will expand vaccination efforts in Piscataquis County, the state’s least populous county, as an increasing number of Mainers become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Northern Light is currently vaccinating people through its two hospitals in the county — Northern Light Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft and Northern Light C.A. Dean Hospital in Greenville.

People who received their first doses at those hospitals will receive their second doses there, but Northern Light will stop providing shots at the hospitals as it consolidates its vaccine efforts at the ice arena going forward, Northern Light spokesperson Chris Facchini said. 

While Piscataquis County has seen a far lower rate of cases than more densely populated Maine counties and one death, it has seen a higher rate infection rate than other rural Maine counties. For example, Aroostook County, which has seen several large COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes, has a lower overall rate of cases.

Northern Light announced the new clinic at the arena last Wednesday, but didn’t yet have an opening date. The Libra Foundation and Foxcroft Academy had offered the building to Northern Light for use as a vaccination site.

The ice arena joins a number of other mass vaccination sites in the state, including at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and at Scarborough Downs, and the pace of vaccinations has been picking up.

On Tuesday, Northern Light vaccinated 4,339 people across Maine, the most it has vaccinated in a single day, Jarvis said. More than 2,100 people were vaccinated at the Cross Insurance Center that day, also a record.

Other mass vaccination sites could be on the way, Jarvis said, with Northern Light currently looking at locations in Hancock County.